Keep Calm and Ommm: How Meditation Can Ease Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly making lists in your head? Or like your brain is being pulled in multiple directions?

If you’ve responded “yes” than you have experienced mental chatter which many people in modern society live with every single day. Mental chatter is comprised of daily stressors which can be both positive and negative, and quite often, stress inducing.

You may have noticed that this chatter always seems to creep up when you have quiet moment to yourself. When you have so much going on, it can feel inescapable – those mental wheels just keep on turning. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a mental vacation, escape the chatter, and find a moment of serenity? Meditation is your plane ticket.

 

The Science of Meditation

Meditation helps to increase your focus, decrease stress, and has even been shown to provide relief for individuals living with chronic pain or illness (Brown et al., 2007; Ludwig & Kabat-Zinn, 2008). Even practicing a few minutes of meditation every day has been shown to reduce stress (Creswell et al., 2014).

So how does meditation change your brain so that you feel a reduction in stress? In 2011, Lazar and colleagues at Harvard, found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation had substantial impact on changing the key areas of the brain. First, they found that meditation increased the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which is responsible for your learning and memory – this means an improvement in focus or ability to remember concepts (Hölzel et al., 2011). They also found that brain cell volume decreased in the amygdala, the area of your brain responsible for the perpetuation of anxiety, fear, and stress. Interestingly, these changes in the amygdala matched the participants self-reports of their stress (Hölzel et al., 2011). So, while meditation can physically change the brain, it can also change a person’s subjective perception and feelings about their stress.

Tips to Get You Started

It isn’t always easy to calm the mental chatter in our heads but it is possible! We’ve provided 5 tips you get you started with meditation:

Sit for Two Minutes: It may seem basic, but try to just sit and meditate for two minutes. It’s a great way to start practicing calming the chatter and also helps your entire body relax. Repeat your two minute session every day for a one week period. If that goes well, try to increase your time meditating every day. Add an additional 30 seconds, or a minute, whatever feels comfortable. Remember, this is your own personal vacation, so you can decide how long you want to spend in your destination.

Incorporate Meditation as Part of Your Morning Routine: When we set intentions to make a change, it can be difficult to see that change to fruition if we don’t have a plan in place. To incorporate daily meditation, you may consider meditating as soon as you wake up. Perhaps wake up a couple of minutes early to meditate if you’re feeling pressed for time. You can even meditate as you take your morning shower or while you’re brushing your teeth. Instead of going through the mental list of everything you’re going to do that day, take few moments to mediate. You may find the clarity you need to get through the day. Best of all, you’ll feel focused and refreshed!

The Three C’s: Check-in, Count, and Come Back: When you’re beginning to practice meditation, there are three steps (or the Three C’s) you can use to guide your process.

  • Check-in with how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? How does your mind feel? Tired? Happy? Stressed? Whatever emotions you may be feeling, know that it is okay to bring them to your session.
  • Count your breaths. Focus on your breathing as it travels through your entire body from your depths of your belly to the tips of your fingers and toes. Count “one” as you breathe in, and “two” as you breathe out. Count to 10 and then repeat.
  • Come back when your mind wanders. It is pretty much a guarantee, particularly when you first start practicing meditation that your mind may take you elsewhere. This is completely okay. Think of your thoughts as floating clouds in the sky. Acknowledge the clouds as they float by and gently return your focus to your breath. With practice, the clouds will drift in less and less.

Don’t Think Twice About It: Life is stressful and you may feel anxious about many things happening in your life. You may even feel anxious about how you’re meditating. You may find yourself saying, “Am I doing this right?” That’s perfectly okay to think. Just know that there’s no perfect way to meditate and that any form of meditation that helps ease your body, mind, and soul can’t be wrong. Be kind to yourself!

Try Yoga: Have you read our previous blog post that talks about the science behind yoga as a stress reduction tool and tips to get your started? Meditation and yoga are the perfect pair – a complete mind, body, and soul approach to reducing stress, finding balance, and bringing you into the present moment.

We hope that these tips to incorporate meditation in your daily routine will help Ease, reduce, and relieve your stress. Remember, “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time by yourself.” – Hermann Hesse

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Live Life Lighter,

Carolyn & Stephanie